The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 113 | D.O.G.S. of Mars review

Leaving Proof 113 | D.O.G.S. of Mars review
Published on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 by

Image Comics brings the digital mini-series D.O.G.S. of Mars to print in this trade paperback. Read the full Leaving Proof review to find out if the science-fiction/horror hybrid is worth seeking out.

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Story has solid science-fiction grounding.
  • Taut, suspenseful plot.
  • A strong emphasis on character development and interaction.

Cons:

  • Art in action-heavy panels is occasionally inscrutable.
Publication Details
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Publication Date: May 2012
  • Story by: Johnny Zito, Tony Trov, and Christian Wieser
  • Art by: Paul Maybury
  • Lettering by: Gabe Bautista
  • Format: 120-page full-colour trade paperback; reprints D.O.G.S. of Mars #s 1–4, originally published in single digital magazine format in 2011 by comiXology.
  • List Price: $15.99 US (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
Cover and Interior Page Previews (Click on images to view in larger size)

  

  
Full Review

Most stories in the “alien slasher” mold follow a certain set formula: The small band of protagonists is situated in a remote area of the world or even off-world, conveniently (for the writer, that is) cut off from immediate help; a mysterious alien enemy stalks our heroes one-by-one even as teammates’ sense of self-preservation and growing distrust of each other threaten to boil over into murderous paranoia, eventually paving the way for the ultimate showdown between the alien threat and The Final Girl (or a reasonable male substitute).

For the creative writer, there is a lot of wiggle room within the horror formula that was pioneered by John W. Campbell, Jr. in the 1938 short story Who Goes There?—the story that formed the basis for 1951’s The Thing From Another World, 1982’s The Thing, and was an indirect influence on 1979’s Alien—reader expectations and genre conventions can be subverted within reason and to great effect. But even a by-the-numbers alien slasher story, if executed with particularly polished craft, can stand out from the pack.

As a lapsed “hard SF” reader, I like D.O.G.S. of Mars‘ solid science-fiction grounding. The D.O.G.S. (for Division of Global Surveyors) team is on a terraforming mission on Mars, and a key step in the process involves detonating a small nuclear weapon near the planet’s solid iron core and presumably melting it, which in turn should allow for the generation of currents, boosting Mars’ negligible magnetic field, and thus allowing it to retain a more substantial atmosphere. It’s a plausible-but-flawed strategy, the shock wave generated by a detonation powerful enough to liquify Mars’ solid iron core would probably split the planet’s mantle and crust with devastating results, but like all good science-fiction, it is rooted in both scientific fact and an imaginative extension of sound scientific principles. It’s a tiny detail that doesn’t really play a big part in the overall story, but it is the book’s accumulation of small, thoughtful, nuts-and-bolts features like this—a character casually brings up the exogenesis theory in a conversation, for example—that sets the written craft on the title apart from the typical members of the “alien-slasher-book-of-the-month” club.

A taut, suspenseful plot ties the narrative together. The members of D.O.G.S. are under siege by some manner of alien infection that turns ordinary humans into ravenous, lupine beasts. It is up to mission commander Captain Zoe and her first officer Turk to lead the D.O.G.S. team to safety, but on an uninhabited planet, with limited food and air supplies, is there any hope at all for their survival? The tense relationship between the headstrong and stubborn Zoe and the ambitious Turk is the highlight of the book’s strong emphasis on character development and interaction. In a way, the animosity between the two officers is as big a threat to the survival of the team as the monsters that stalk them, and the pair’s attempts to work together even as they compete against each other makes for an interesting dynamic.

My biggest misgiving about the book concerns Paul Maybury’s art. I appreciate the artist’s attempt at bringing a distinctive, monochromatic aesthetic to the book that is quite different from some of his previous work (in particular, I’m thinking of the excellent short story “Prey On You,” which appeared in the Popgun 2 anthology), but some of his stylistic and visual storytelling choices made me wonder if the approach served up uniqueness at the cost of clarity. The art in the more action-heavy panels is occasionally inscrutable, although in some instances, this helps reinforce the air of claustrophobia and terrified confusion that permeates the story.

D.O.G.S. of Mars is an entertaining and gripping tale with some minor hiccups in execution. Readers on the lookout for a solid blend of science-fiction and horror in their comics should consider giving this trade paperback a try.

The “D.O.G.S. of Mars” trade paperback is on sale now

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